Rare Partnership Builds New Facility
It’s been a long time coming. Barry Riddle will tell you the dream of building a tennis facility began when he was in college and has lasted for more than 40 years. In August 2019, through the help of a variety of people and businesses, his dream of opening a facility that would cater to not only the tennis community, but the community at large was fulfilled. Parker Racquet Club, located next to Parker Fieldhouse, opened its doors in the late summer to tennis players of all skill levels and ages.
The journey leading to this amazing space has not been easy. Barry and his wife Suzette came to Parker in 1999. “We noticed there were no tennis programs where you could learn to play the game or have leagues. There were only 2 dilapidated tennis courts.” With that they searched for neighborhood courts and started Parker’s first tennis programs.
As programs grew they utilized Chaparral High School courts, until they outgrew those, too. During this time the Town of Parker began partnering with the couple and their mission to teach. The Town helped out by handling registrations and providing some marketing support. The cooperative partnership was born.
With the inevitable growth, Parker built Railbender Tennis and Skate Park, allowing Barry to utilize the six outdoor public courts for his programs. “The partnership with the Town was great!”, he says, “But pretty soon they started getting pushback from the community – they couldn’t get onto the courts because of our programs were taking up so much of the court time”.
The Town then approached Barry and his partners Steve Prosowski and Craig Marshall with a proposal. Parker owned land next to the Fieldhouse but didn’t have the funding to build on it. A joint partnership was set in motion to build a tennis facility dedicated to supporting the local community.
Barry recalls the process was not easy. Even though the Town was a partner in the venture, “We had to go through the whole town process. Site plan, approvals, town council meetings, public meetings, hearings, all that is involved in partnering with a government agency to build a private facility on a public piece of land.”
But even the financing wasn’t without its challenges. Midwest Regional Bank Vice President George Taylor said, “Not only was it a start-up business, but the complex was built on leased land. Most banks wouldn’t touch the deal.” But when George saw the Town was only charging $1 per year for the lease, that changed everything. With the risk minimized, the project was funded.
This was the first time Parker had partnered with a private company to provide a public facility. It isn’t uncommon for a public entity to work with a private group to provide something the community needs, but Parker’s first time out in this type of venture did have some people nervous. Nonetheless, public meetings were packed with people in support of seeing the project come to fruition.
From the Town Council to the investors to the tennis community, people wanted this to happen. Barry specifically points to Mayor Mike Waid for his strong advocacy of the project and estimates 23 of the 25 private investors are Parker residents.
With Parker’s green light to move forward, Essenza Architecture stepped in to begin the design of the complex. Christa Plaza, Essenza’s Owner/Principal brought fitness facility expertise to the unique partnership of public and private entities. It became a balancing act in satisfying the requirements of the Town’s planning committee while staying within the owner’s strict budgets.
Initially the plan was to build a bubble, a common structure for this type of facility, but the Town of Parker vetoed the idea. They wanted a solid structure, a more durable, better looking, and more expensive building. The solution was to utilize a steel building from Sunward Steel Buildings, a Denver based, family owned building manufacturer. The tennis facility was pre-fabricated in North Dakota and then assembled on location in Parker.
Amy Wirth, President and Owner of Sunward, said “we looked for opportunities to help with the cost savings.” Working together with Essenza Architecture, Sunward came up with an overrun of a unique metal, normally a premium material, and were able to provide discounts to make it work. They also utilized the five different colors of the metal and a variety of angles to assure the building was aesthetically pleasing, fitting into the community and complementing the Parker Fieldhouse Recreation Center next door.
Christa Plaza says it took every team member to bring this project to completion. She gives great credit to all of the partner companies including the contractor, Centerre Construction. “Centerreis one of the best construction companies in the area. They genuinely care about getting things done right”. Dave Hritz, Vice President of the construction firm said, “budget was a big deal”, adding pressure while they worked to satisfy Parker building requirements and meet scheduling deadlines.
The 48,000 square foot facility is the rare combination of a public and private joint venture. But it is also rare that an indoor tennis facility is open to the public. These facilities are typically private clubs. Barry notes they are committed to making the center affordable for the local residents, to the extent that this requirement is written into the lease.
One person was missing at the grand opening. Paige Hyatt, a financial advisor who was deeply committed to the facility passed away before seeing the completed project. Barry points to the garden in front of the building dedicated to Paige, saying, “this would not be here without his efforts.”
Barry’s motivation was to provide a place for kids to go. Well known in the Parker community, owners Barry, Steve and Craig have all coached in the local high schools and have a genuine desire to support youth. Today, through the support of the Town of Parker, families come to play and enjoy the facility, kids of all ages take lessons and Pickle Ball players have access to courts year-round.